The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Supreme Court found a way to make our gun problem worse

Handguns for sale at Chuck's Firearms gun store in Atlanta on June 23. (Erik S. Lesser/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) (Erik S Lesser/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

The Supreme Court has now expanded the Second Amendment to the extent of requiring that states allow concealed handguns to be carried for self-defense in public. That ought to concern every American who walks the streets.

A number of questions are still to be answered in future court cases. How will rules on carrying a gun for self-defense outside the home be evaluated in keeping with the court’s 6-to-3 ruling? What falls within the scope of the “sensitive places” that are still permitted to be gun-free? Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the majority opinion, said that state regulations need to be reasonably similar to laws passed earlier in U.S. history. What will that mean for regulations requiring training in firearms handling that are on the books in many states? Two members of the six-justice majority — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh — wrote in a concurring opinion that such rules can stand for now. Will they, consistent with the views of the four-judge Thomas faction, be limited or even thrown out in future rulings?

In a nation overflowing with guns and gun violence, how far will this court go in time?

D.C., as with jurisdictions across the nation, knows all too well the dangers associated with concealed guns. Lethal weapons are found in waistbands, pants pockets, underwear and socks. They are out in public, stashed behind trash cans, under porches and rocks. And those concealed guns are mostly illegal.

Besides the uses to which they are put — e.g., robbing a store, stealing a wallet, taking a life — guns are being fired by people who don’t know, and don’t care to know, the first thing about how to use them except to point and pull the trigger at a target, even one darting amid a crowd. That’s how we get our dead and wounded.

As of Friday, there had been 100 homicides, mostly gun-related, in D.C. this year. That’s an increase of 16 percent over the same time last year.

D.C. police records will show that I am a registered gun owner. Been one for years.

I know my way around guns. Besides Army training with an M1 rifle years ago, I was qualified in the use of a .38-caliber pistol and a .357 magnum during my years as a special agent with the State Department in the 1960s. I know the feel of a lethal weapon on my hip. And I remember, too, the feel of empowerment that it gives.

I was sobered then, and remain clearheaded now, about the threats of a loaded gun in the hands of someone who lacks skill in handling firearms. Add to that a person without a moral compass, suffering the pains of jealousy or rejection in a relationship — or, equally menacing, one inflamed with righteousness and vigilantism — and you have a walking danger zone on your hands.

Said Thomas, speaking for the majority: “The government must affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation is part of the historical tradition that delimits the outer bounds of the right to keep and bear arms.” Make no mistake: Many more gun-safety rules may be imperiled under that standard.

If so, walking among us will be everyday people armed with a legally approved concealed capacity to kill. Add to them throngs of illegal, gun-toting criminals.

What a tragic mess. And, sadly, it is coming to us courtesy of Justice Thomas and the Supreme Court of the land.

Loading...